Saturday, August 1, 2020

Don't Let Your Faith Become Stale


by Tim Suddeth @TimSuddeth

I have a confession to make. This staying home the last few months because of the pandemic, for me, hasn’t been all bad. I have my books, my internet, and my walks around the block. I can still take daytrips, although many of the destinations are closed. I am missing my writing groups and eating out with friends. But to keep my family well, it hasn’t been that big of a sacrifice. So I’m settling into a nice little routine here at home. Overall, I’m happy, comfortable.

Sometimes, I’m afraid that I get like that in my faith. I grew up in church. I had my own seat on the back row of Mom’s WMU class before I could even walk. Now that I have an increasing amount of gray around my ears, and been fortunate to take several in-depth classes, it’s easy to think I’ve heard all the Bible teaching I need.

But faith isn’t a goal or some level of knowledge you obtain, it’s a relationship. Completing a certain Bible study or church program doesn’t instill in you some knowledge that suddenly gives you a halo or your own seat at the holy table. Falling in love with someone may include a special star-filled night on the beach, but it doesn’t end there. It doesn’t end on the wedding day. And it doesn’t end on your fiftieth anniversary. Like faith, love is a journey.

And as you travel along, the journey changes. Young love isn’t exactly like mature love. It’s still love, a relationship and commitment to your beloved. But we experience the two very differently. In young love, there are the feelings, the dreams, and the rapid pat-pat of the heart. With mature love there’s more of a trust, an understanding, and shared experiences with the other. A rapid pat-pat might cause a call to the doctor.

When your love, at any stage, stops deepening, becomes complacent, then you are flirting with trouble. It is the same in our relationships with Christ.

I faced this fear of complacency in my faith when my wife brought a new book into our house, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien. It’s important to remember that America doesn’t contain or define God, and His principles are true whether in Greenville, Atlanta, New York, London, Ghana, Hanoi, or the far side of the moon. But it is easy to let our Western culture influence how we look at God.

I have to admit that the title raised my red-blooded American hackles. Who were these guys?

One of the best lessons I learned while I was in seminary came when I went to a Sunday school with one of my classmates. Clar was a missionary whose ministry involved teaching Olympic wrestling in Mongolia. He had experienced a life and culture that I can’t imagine.

We were both older than the regular college students, but the church didn’t have any other spot for two single guys. You could tell that having two seminary students made the teacher very uncomfortable.

His lesson was a good old American standard: if you try to be good and work hard, God will give you your heart’s desire.

It sounds and preaches good, but it isn’t biblical.

He may give you the desire of your heart, or He might change your heart. Or He may make you go without. Because Daddy knows what is best for His children. (Don’t get the two mixed up.)

In America, we have seen the church grow larger, richer, and more complacent. We, also, see this in our other church, the stock market. Clar had seen a church under a communist regime, persecuted but growing deeper. Same God, different perspectives.

In their book, Richards and O’Brien looks at nine areas where our Western, more affluent, culture shades the way we see God. Often it isn’t one side or the other being right, it is two different ways of seeing. But it’s important that we recognize both to get a truer picture of Our Lord.

Daddy has a way of knowing when we, His children, become complacent and He will send us something to bring us out of it. Not to punish us but to remind us to keep our eyes on Him. I would rather go through whatever the shake-up He sends (I say with much trembling.) then miss out on continuing to grow in Him.

Because Daddy is more than worth it. The thing is when you find your faith shaken, you will also find that the Rock of Ages is there beside you. And that the Pearl of Great Price is more than you could ever want or need.

Now that’s biblical. And true.

TWEETABLE

Tim Suddeth is a stay-at-home dad and butler for his wonderful, adult son with autism. He has written numerous blogs posts, short stories, and three novels waiting for publication. He is a frequent attendee at writers’ conferences, including the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and a member of Word Weavers and ACFW. He lives near Greenville, SC where he shares a house with a bossy Shorky and three too-curious Persians. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at timingreenville.com.

7 comments:

  1. Complacent means we think we already know God completely. Just writing that down almost makes me laugh out loud. He is greater than our thoughts, greater than anything we could ask or think. There's ALWAYS something new to learn about Him. It will take a lifetime and eternity to truly know Him. Our human nature tries to put Him in a box. But that's the flesh. Thanks for this timely reminder of our need to know Him MORE. He IS worth it. When that truth overcomes complacency, things start to happen.

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  2. Thank you for sharing these powerful and insightful thoughts. Complacency is a word that describes so many these days. We need a spiritual revival!

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    1. Yes Crystal. We do. Each one of us. And nothing is stopping it from happening.

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  3. Excellent piece of writing, Tim, and so true. It's easy to fall into the fallacy that American Christianity is the norm for everyone. Thanks for your thoughts.

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  4. Thank you Roberta, for reading.

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  5. Tim,
    Thank you for this piece. You bring out thoughts which should be preached in loudspeakers throughout America! It wouldn't be popular, but it would be true.

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